Stephen Spielberg shares his boyhood
Another movie about Hollywood, but altogether softer and gentler in tone than last month’s loud garish Babylon. This one comes from Stephen Spielberg, who has been serving up unforgettable pictures for five decades. The Fabelmans is a fictionalized version of his boyhood. Sammy Fabelman, a Jewish kid growing up in Arizona in the 1950s, is given a movie camera and soon graduates from home movies to amateur action pictures starring his friends and schoolmates as cowboys and battlefield soldiers. His dad (Paul Dano) thinks Sam is wasting time and money, but his mom Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is encouraging, as is his dad’s best friend who Sammy realizes is the other great love of Mitzi’s life. When dad’s job relocates to Los Angeles, Sam has to overcome anti-Semitism at his new school and watch his parent’s marriage collapse, but film-making brings popularity and a puppy-love girlfriend.
The home-life and high-school scenes come with welcome echoes of a hundred other movies (notably, for me, American Graffiti). Gabrielle LaBelle is totally convincing as the nerdy kid living a small life but dreaming big. Michelle Williams gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the neurotic Mitzi.
The film is a bit too long (two-and-a-half hours), but it’s easy to take Sam and his family to your heart, especially when you remember that the real Sammy Fabelman is going to bring us ET and Close Encounters and the Indiana Jones movies a few years from where this story ends.